Why car owners don't inspect the oil dipstick?

+1 dagosa

Especially since many front hoods have been reinforced for crash protection they weigh a ton. Having hood struts to help raise and hold up the hood really help versus struggling to raise a heavy hood and then hold it one handed while using the other hand to set a prop rod.

When gas stations had “full service” the attendant would pop the hood and check the oil and rad. Those days are long gone and many car owners today forget about checking anything other than their gas gage.

I even had a relative who relied on the dealer where he had his car serviced to check the rad and “check” the oil when it was changed. He was puzzled by an overheating engine.

Generally low oil consumption and long service intervals make people forget about what’s going on under the hood. My ex-neighbor did not even know how to open the hood of her Accura RDX.

asemaster Says, “That day is already here. BMW and MB owners have the simplest system for checking oil there is. Get in the car, push a button, and the dash display tells you if the oil is full or if and how much it’s low.”

ok4450 Says, " My Lincoln has a Message Center that provides info on just about everything at the push of a button and to me it’s an invaluable asset. It’s difficult to think of doing without that feature. However, I also raise the hood regularly and make certain all fluids are where they should be. I choose not to ever place myself in a situation where the MC is beeping and flashing a message telling me the oil or coolant is low."

It still seems to me that many manufacturers are behind in technology (like that utilized in the BMW and Lincoln examples).

And although I am in the camp of ok4450 (as many of us car enthusiasts are) and would still be physically checking under the hood, there would be quite a few folks concerned about a “low oil” message or something to indicate oil level. Some more engines would be saved.

I’m talking about people who are conscientious, but not quite to the point of lifting the hood and getting dirty. Many people would not be comfortable selecting correct oil and adding adding it anyway, so why look under the hood? Get a dashboard message and take the car to the pros.

A step in the right direction?


“My Good Old Bonneville Has A “Low Oil Level” Indicator On The DIC. There’s A Sensor In The Oil Pan, Not Exactly Rocket Science Technology And I’m Sure Not That Expensive.”

I’ve never seen that puppy illuminate and chances are I never will. I am a dipsticker!

I’m coming up on an oil change and have to remember to turn the key to “on” while I drain oil, just to see if it does anything.


Mountainbike, I don’t think children are capable of critical thinking, even as they approach 20. I was a mentor for a group of college students in the 1980s. I gave them a real problem that I needed a solution to. I tried to tell them what I needed and why, but they didn’t pay enough attention. They sort of did what I asked, but not well enough for me to use the data. I ended up doing the work myself. For quite a while I thought it odd that upper juniors/seniors from a prestigious university would do such a poor job, then it occurred to me that I was probably about the same when I was their age. I was sure that after several years on the job, I had developed critical thinking and noticed a lack of it among others. tere is a book that discusses this named “Why do They Act That Way?” A long-time high school counselor tells that the frontal cortex is the last part of the brain to develop, and that is where judgement is centered. Women develop by around 20, but meant take until the mid-20s. Critical thinking may develop as we become adults, but I have worked with people that still didn’t think critically even into their senior years. They didn’t normally need it at work, and it never developed.

I assume many contributors to this forum, like me, grew up hanging around and/or working full service gas stations where relatives and/or friends worked. Those environments provided the seeds and osmosis for:

  • the interest to learn more about cars,
  • learning some of the skill involved
  • the recognition for why it was important

That “seed” environment has largely dried up. Vehicles don’t require the level of repairs they did years ago. It’s been replaced with all the new opportunities that grew out of electronics and the internet (video games, computers, internet surfing, programming, geo caching, video, etc).

When many of us contributors grew up, only a few industries had a few openings for computer skilled help. Today there is no industry on the planet that doesn’t require computer skills at all levels - and many are paying big bucks for that help.

If checking dipsticks (and general car repair) was as important and necessary today as it was years ago, we would not be having this conversation. That importance, as far as the public’s experience reinforces, continues to dry up.

I can see all the contributing factors mentioned, but in the 60s and 70s we were interested in how things worked and how to fix them.

Maybe part of the problem is that today it’s such a throw away world. Their TV goes blank and it is just replaced… and things are not made to be repaired. This may give the younger generation (that don’t remember TV repair men), to consider their car as a maintenance free item too. Until it breaks and they find out otherwise.

I couldn’t tell you how many motor brushes my dad and I replaced, and right off hand I don’t remember seeing a drawer with an assortment of brushes at the hardware store lately.
We were not poor, yet we didn’t have the money to toss a good item because of a small flaw like motor brushes. From the electric drill to moms vacuum cleaner, to the washer and drier, and starter motors, all got new brushes at some point.

I consider myself lucky that my dad was willing to teach me how to repair all these things and how they worked, and I’m thankful that I took an interest in how things worked and how to repair them. Though we had to give away that old Winchester 12 gauge pump after I couldn’t remember where any of the parts went. I was only about twelve.

I have two nephews from my sister and one is interested at least to where he wants to help me do his repairs. The other one…I watched yesterday struggle to get the socket onto the lug nut, but was using the wrong end of the socket. I watched him stab at it four times before I offered a suggestion to turn the socket around.

I think though that it is far more complicated than we here can even consider.
Young minds not piqued yet, lack of parents to guide them into these fields, lack of schools offering some interest in these fields, societies idea that these fields are dirty…unpleasant jobs,
and the lack of a work ethic and that actually doing a little physical labor is below them.
Add it all up and you have a generation that want’s to sit idle all day looking at a computer screen and their phone and the only time away from their cubical is to get another cup of coffee.


If people can’t be bothered to clip their own toe and fingernails why would anyone expect them to open their hoods and check their own oil? I am amazed at the services people pay to have done on a weekly basis that everyone I knew growing up did for themselves (and I still do for myself). And it is not just people of means, it seems like every economic class does this. How hard is it to make coffee? Yet there they are in Starbucks. How hard is it to cook eggs and bacon and there they ar ein Micky-D’s getting and egg-McMuffin. Same for the nail salon.

The car is an appliance, open the door and the light goes on, turn the key and drive away. When those don’t happen… Call a guy to come haul it away.

I check under the hood every Saturday morning. I have done this since 1967 when I acquired the first car I actually purchased. One of many useful things I learned from my Father. My current car and the one preceding it never used a drop of oil between 5,000 mile/6 month changes. I still check.

Here’s a direct quote from another thread currently going in this forum:

Wouldn’t a code reader pick up low oil levels?

My only point in bringing this up here is that there are many people who have no mechanical inclination or background and for whom the car is just another machine just like the washer or coffee maker. They don’t know how it works, maybe they never will, and that’s not a bad thing. We all have different strengths. I can rebuild an engine but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to braid my 5 year old daughter’s hair. Does that make me an inattentive or uncommitted father? No, it just means there are certain things I just can’t do.

There are people who can’t be bothered to check their own oil and there are people who just can’t do it period.

When we were kids some of us would fix our own bicycles and some of us would wait for dad/uncle/neighbor/other kid to do it.

you bring up a very good point . . .

There are many problems which don’t generate a code, even if they theoretically should

For example, in the past few months, I’ve fixed a few no start/stalling complaints, which generated no fault codes

In both examples, a faulty CKP sensor was the culprit

I 100% verified the sensors were faulty. In fact, I measured the resistance, which was way out of specs, in both instances. It was not guesswork. I initially looked at the sensors, based on my experience, and the symptoms.

The last sensor, the resistance stone cold was 2.6 megaohms . . . !!!

Code or not, any darn fool knows that sensor is way out of spec. In hindsight, it’s a miracle the engine occasionally started

The previous no code sensor, I measured the resistance cold, and it was okay. I hooked up my fluke, set it to measure resistance, put the sensor in a pot of water. I slowly started to heat the pot of water on the stove. In about 5 seconds . . . and the water was not even luke warm yet . . . the resistance shot up to infinity. It’s going to get a lot hotter installed in the engine

For both of these cars, the sensor was the end of the starting/stalling complaints


There are many problems which don’t generate a code, even if they theoretically should

Why should they? Remember, the OBD-II system we use today is an emissions control device. OBD-II standardized code numbers and definitions, and set parameters for when a car can and can not set a fault code and illuminate the warning light. As a result we have failures that set fault codes that have nothing to do with the way the engine runs and we have engine failures that set no codes/lights because they do not cause the tailpipe emissions to rise above 1.5 times the Federal Test Procedure.

A failed crank sensor may not set a code because it does not cause the emissions to rise. In fact, the car will have no emissions because it doesn’t run.

Wouldn’t live scan data have led you to the failed sensors without intrusive testing?

Good points have been made in this thread. A few I’d like to comment on are the OBDII codes and the heavy hoods.

ASE made an excellent point. There is a misconception that the OnBoard Diagnostic System is designed to assist the driver and the mechanic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Its only function is to identify and notify of any failure that might cause undue emissions release to occur. It is mandated by the feds for exactly and for only that purpose. It’s in a real sense an emissions system of its own. The extent to which it helps the owner and the mechanics is a byproduct of that mandate.

Now, the heavy hoods. As the population ages, it really does become difficult to open many of the new reinforced “high strength steel” (quote from Toyota documents) hoods. Many of my friends cannot open their hoods, and on a bad day I cannot open my own without pain. It is a serious and growing problem. I’ve been considering modifying mine with air struts, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable with air struts applying opening pressure if the latch should fail. As mandated, there is a safety catch, but still.

I check ,y oil once a month which for me is probably only about 800 milesor whenever I get gas on a trip and my car doesn’t burn any appreciable amount. I do however think it is stupid that all cars don’t have an oil level monitor.
My car has a monitor to tell me if my washer fluid is low. Now I ask you, which do you think is more important?

Excellent point.

You think today’s hoods are heavy? I was at a car show last summer and an exhibitor asked me to help lift his hood. He has a beautiful 54 Packard Caribbean convertible. The hood was surprisingly hard to lift so I asked him what it weighed. 350 lb. was the reply, the lovely dual hood scoops on that car were leaded ont0 a hood from a standard model at the factory.


I have to wonder how many of the old time customizers came down with lead poisoning. I watched an old time customizer on Monster Garage creating beautifully crafted taillight surround sculpture out of lead, and to be honest, I admired his artistry but felt sorry for him.

And I had a bud, as a kid we melted lead and poured it into molds for lead soldiers to play with. Sure we used to get to play with mercury as kids in class, but remember do not eat the berries alongside the road because of lead from gas. I think they used to spray the dirt roads near our cabin with oil with dioxin to keep the dust down, Am worried the gmo’s are resistant to herbicide so they can us more of it. Sure that is in our food now, and the monarchs are suffering because milkweed no longer grows in corn fields due to increased herbicide use. Let us remember biting on a lead sinker to secure it,or all the asbestos dust from brake pads, amazing I am alive. Plant milkweed for the monarchs if you can.

@db4690: " It’s not surprising that those same people also don’t pop the hood, probably never will, and probably have no idea what their engine actually looks like"

This is apparently encouraged by manufacturers that put a plastic cover over all the ‘ugly bits’ of an engine so you can’t even see most of it without removing the cover. (which is generally a pain to get back on properly too)

A lot of transmissions you can’t even check easily, and some BMWs didn’t even have an oil dipstick for a while. (I think or at least hope that BMW came out of their delirium and resumed making it possible for owners to check their oil)

Just a quick comment about hood that have prop rods… Like Mustangs!

Kits to add gas struts are plentiful for popular cars like these. I added them to my car. Not because I had trouble holding up the hood with one hand and fiddling with the prop rod with the other arm but because they are far more convenient. The struts over-center so they won’t open the hood if the latch is popped no matter if the safety catch is functioning or not.